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washington philips - What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?
Gospel maverick Washington Phillips has been championed and covered by Ry Cooder and Will Oldham among others, but you have to go back to the source to fully appreciate this man's unique oeuvre. Aside from his not inconsiderable talents as a writer, Phillips' instrumental skills instantly set him apart from his Depression-era contemporaries. According to Frank Walker, the man who first recorded Phillips, the singer played a homemade instrument that "nobody on earth could use except him", although the contentious contraption has been identified as a Phonoharp (?), a Celestophone (??) and a Dolceola, an advertisement for which is bundled with this record. It's billed as a miniature grand piano, but these crackly, ancient recordings obscure the sound of the device somewhat, so it's hard to say whether it's more like a harp, a piano or a zither. In any case, it serves Phillips' wonderful songs perfectly. Sadly, Phillips only left a handful of these compositions behind (16 at last count - 12 of which are on this commendable LP) which only goes to make this a more precious document, which by the way, is irresponsibly limited to just 500 copies. Get one while you can...